Koninginnedag

Being Dutch – Part 6: Koningsdag!! (King’s Day)

I simply love Queen’s Day King’s Day (Dammit! I keep doing that!) aka Europe’s biggest street party!

King’s Day (formerly Queen’s Day) is my favourite Dutch holiday and this year I just happen to live here, so it’s double spannend!

Queen's Day 2011

Queen’s Day 2011

A little bit of history:

King’s Day celebrates the birthday of the King, Willem-Alexander and is to be held annually on the 27th of April (or the 26th if the 27th falls on a Sunday – like this year). 2014 is the first ever King’s Day in the Netherlands. Formerly Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), last year saw the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander on 30th April 2013 – the last Queen’s Day following the abdication of Queen Beatrix. (Full story.)

So now, it’s ALL about the King!

Apart from the name change, I’m expecting the same level of enthusiasm, atmosphere and celebration in Amsterdam as the past 3 years I’ve attended!

So what happens on King’s Day?

Basically everyone goes oranje gekte (orange crazy) … lots of people will be dressed head-to-toe in orange! Even the more modest will wear at least something orange. Some people even dress their pets in the colour. Seriously.

It’s all a show of pride for the Dutch Royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau… and man are they proud!!

Our King's Day accessories box.

Our King’s Day accessories box. Every Dutchie I know has their own collection of orange memorabilia for special occasions.

The whole of the Netherlands is a massive party on this day, but nowhere more than in Amsterdam! The main roads are closed off to cars and trams so that crowds can party in the streets and there’s live music, LOTS of booze and an electric atmosphere wherever you go!  You could even call it gezellig! 😉

What should I bring?

In addition to your orange get-up:

1. Loose change. Make sure you have plenty of loose change as many toilet facilities charge between 50 cents – 1 euro to use their powder room on King’s Day.

2. Comfy footwear. You will do a lot of walking and/or dancing – so wear comfortable shoes!!

3. Beverages (and money for more beverages!) Strictly speaking, you must not carry more than one alcoholic drink with you but I have never seen this enforced.

4. Camera. You will obviously need a camera to take #selfies of you and your mates having an awesome time (yes, I am taking the piss)… I am way too old for selfies or hash tagging.

5. Phone = pointless unless used for number 4.  You can try to use your phone… but it won’t work. Generally the networks are as crazy as the parties on King’s Day.

What can I expect to see / do?

Well that’s up to you of course! There’s plenty, believe me!  Just walk around and you’ll find parties of all sizes and description, live music, fun attractions, games and general drinking and merriment. 

Vrijmarkt: If you want to buy some old tat, or just soak up a great atmosphere, head for Vondelpark. Special rules on King’s Day mean that anyone can sell their second-hand things on the streets and in parks, thus turning the city into a vrijmarkt (free market)! Anyone can take part, so there’s a load of old junk on offer! Vondelpark is swarming with children selling their wares. There’s a buzzing atmosphere in the park, with singing, dancing and children-turned-street performers for the day! There are also a wide variety of stalls and games, from wet-sponge throwing to funfair style games.

Looking in a box cost me 50 cents...

Looking in a box cost me 50 cents…

Parties: there are parties all over the city, ranging from small bars with live music acts, to huge organised events (for these you’ll need to buy tickets in advance). Visit iamsterdam for details.

Personally, we just prefer to bar crawl, that way you get to see more of the city and check out various venues before making your choice. A firm favourite of ours is the Kashmir Lounge bar on Jan Pieter Heijestraat with it’s relaxed vibe.

Go around the party please.

Go around the party please.

Canals: The canals are absolutely heaving on King’s Day, you will probably only see a sea of orange rather than any actual water. It’s all in good fun though and a sight not-to-be-missed. If you’re lucky enough to know someone with a boat, take a boat ride after 8-9pm… the lightweights have drunk too much and will have headed home by then, so it’s much less busy 😉

Maybe see you there. I’ll be the one with the gold tiara, orange jumpsuit and a bottle of orange fizz!

Hayley x

Being Dutch – Part 1: Top 2000

As part of my integration into the culture, I try and do as many “Dutch” things as possible. In the past this has included, but is not limited to: eating raw haring (herring), dressing head to toe in orange for Koninginnedag (Queen’s day now King’s Day!), cooking mini meat products on a bakplaat (hot plate for cooking things ON the table! Weird! Also known as gourmettensee photo below), kissing strangers on the cheek 3 times, attending Dutch circle parties and enjoying a canal boat ride or twenty.

However, Top 2000 is without a doubt one of  my favourite things about the Netherlands. Each year, one of the biggest radio stations, Radio 2, opens its website for stemmen (voting) for just one week and you have to choose your top 15 all-time songs from their list… plus 5 songs of your own choice. (Voting closes this Friday, 6th December, so if you’re quick you can still vote now.)

Then on 25th December at midday they begin the Top 2000. Yes, the station literally plays 2000 songs, as chosen by the public… non-stop all the way until midnight on 31st December!!! Since it started running in 1999, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen has been number 1 twelve times, beaten only by Hotel California by the Eagles in 2010 and by Dutch legend, Boudewijn de Groot with Avond in 2005.

What better driving music is there?

What better driving music is there?

The Dutchie and I are HUGE music fans, so it’s a very exciting time for us! From the excitement of voting, to actually hearing the first song on Christmas Day to find out which songs only *just* made the cut! There’s always a huge pull-out sheet in the newspaper to tell you what date and time the songs are on and quite often over the past 5 years we have left the radio on at night or set and alarm just to listen to one of our favourite songs. Yes – we can listen to that song any time, but this is different, this is the Top 2000!

Of course there are always people moaning because their favourite song/band is missing from the list, but I try to look on the positive side and just make the best out of what IS there. We would never have anything like this in the UK, so I have to make the most of it! Last year a Facebook group was formed to get SLAYER in the Top 2000 (much like the campaign to make Rage Against the Machine number one in the UK) anyway, it worked and SLAYER Angel of Death was number 199 in 2012! We stayed up until 5.30am at a party to celebrate and listen to it being played among ABBA and Sting! Very surreal!

Slayer and a grillplaats (Gril/hot plate) all in one!

Slayer and a bakplaat all in one!

Following 6 days solid of pure music pleasure… the magic really kicks in on New Years Eve when you get to the pointy end of the chart and into the Top 100 or so. Some personal highlights from last year were:

Alice Cooper – Halo Of Flies (number 167)
Neil Young – Like A Hurricane (no. 146)
Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights (no. 144)
Radiohead – Creep (no. 116)
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black (no. 97)
The Cure – A Forest (no. 42)
Billy Joel – Piano Man (no. 36)

… you get the idea, it’s TUNE after tune! (Unfortunately “our song”: Roxy Music – If There Is Something only ends up being around the 1000 mark every year… such a shame. Amazing song, it really takes you on a journey. Totally underrated!)

Anyway, the best is yet to come… New Years eve is of course fantastic wherever you are.

BUT…

If you are standing on a roof terrace in Amsterdam with your best friends in the world, listening to the Top 2000 whilst fireworks are going off all around the city and you have a 360° panoramic view… well, then it’s just EPIC!! I can safely say that belting out Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of my lungs, champagne in hand, in Holland’s capital was one of the best nights of my life, EVER. I think I even shed a little tear. So thanks, Top 2000, ik hou van jou.

Hayley x